OPINION: Lip-synching is a cable TV show?

Long before the Standbys, even before the Bearcats, I played in a musical group called the Untouchable Trio. I thought about that last weekend as I watched a "CBS Sunday Morning'' segment about a phenomenon called "Lip Sync Battle." If you aren't...

Terry Woster

Long before the Standbys, even before the Bearcats, I played in a musical group called the Untouchable Trio.

I thought about that last weekend as I watched a "CBS Sunday Morning'' segment about a phenomenon called "Lip Sync Battle." If you aren't familiar with the phenomenon, don't feel alone, although CBS said 2 million people watch the show on cable.

Lip-synching is a form of entertainment in which a person pretends to sing along to a record or tape, generally a popular song that most folks would recognize. It's like karaoke, except that the vocals generally sound better in lip-synching.

To avoid confusing readers, you should know I am going to spell the word as lip-synching. Although the cable show spells the word '"sync'' without the "h,'' and as two words, "Lip Sync," I found an Associated Press Stylebook reference with "h" and hyphen. I'm going with that, unless I refer specifically to the cable TV show, which I quite probably will never do again. (An aside: There's something fishy about a phenomenon when people can't even agree on how to spell the name.)

Wait. That last bit was kind of mean-spirited. Just because I can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for a program that has people pretending to sing doesn't mean others can't find some laughs or interest in the show. I seem to quote Sly and the Family Stone a lot these days, but they said, "Different strokes for different folks," you know? (I don't think Sly did much lip-synching, but I haven't researched it. I scanned an online list of the "Top 10 lip-synch fails," and he wasn't in there.)


In many list of biggest lip-synch failures, or "fails" as we call them online, a duo from the 1980s named Milli Vanilli is rated near the top. Those two guys, in case you missed it, were caught lip-synching to one of their hits (one of their many hits, I wonder?) on MTV, back in the day when the Music Television Network played music. Vanilli's backing tape skipped or something, and there they were pretending to sing along to a skipping record. Well, yeah, any kid who grew up with a stack of 45 rpm records and an old-style turntable could have warned them about that.

Anyway, the cable show has LL Cool J as host, so I have to cut it a little slack. He's Special Agent Sam Hanna of "NCIS: Los Angeles," you know, and I wouldn't miss an episode of that program. (If you wouldn't be caught dead watching "NCIS: Los Angeles," all I can say is, see what Sly and the Family Stone have to say about differences.) By the way, in research for this essay I learned that LL Cool J's name once was James Todd Smith. And he says he doesn't lip-synch. He likes the music to be all his own, he says.

I'm with old LL on that one. When I played rhythm guitar for the wildly popular central South Dakota dance band, the Sensational Standbys, we handled our own vocals and provided the backup instrumentals - a couple of guitars, keyboards, accordion, drums and electric bass. When I played rhythm guitar for the Bearcats back in high school at Chamberlain, we made all of our own music - piano, drums, guitar, saxophone, trumpet and trombone. We didn't have much for vocals, although a few times I stepped to the mike to do a Johnny Cash number, which really, really fit with the swing music the rest of the band played.

So, back to the Untouchable Trio. The Bearcats were named after a Hamm's Beer commercial of the time. The trio was named for the Elliot Ness TV show popular around 1960, "The Untouchables." We were sophomores - Mike, Joel and Terry. I had a Sears, Roebuck electric guitar, and a local farm show had a talent contest. We practiced like crazy on "Tijuana Jail"' and a couple of other Kingston Trio numbers.

We were good, too - third good, right behind a couple of tap-dancing six-year-olds and - oh, the horror - a group of Elvis lip-synchers from Kimball. The trio disbanded immediately after the results were announced.

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